US lawmaker Blumenauer sees clearer pathway for cannabis banking reform

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U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenauer expressed optimism Monday about the odds of cannabis banking reform finally being passed by the full Congress, citing growing bipartisan support and the increased risk of violent attacks on state-legal marijuana businesses that handle cash.

“I think there’s an opportunity to finally get this (the SAFE Banking Act) across the finish line” as part of the American competitiveness legislation, the Oregon Democrat said during a media briefing.

The House included the full SAFE Banking Act in its version of the bill, the America COMPETES Act.

The Senate didn’t include cannabis banking reform in its version, the U.S. Innovation and Competition Act, but a conference committee now is working to resolve differences in the two measures.

SAFE Banking would enable financial institutions to provide traditional banking services to state-legal marijuana businesses without fear of federal reprisal.

Blumenauer cited a recent letter by 24 Senators, including five Republicans, as growing bipartisan support for cannabis banking reform.

The letter urged Senate and House leaders to include SAFE Banking as part of the American competitiveness package.

“We haven’t had that leverage before and this base of support with the conferees,” Blumenauer noted.

He said he believes the competitiveness bill will pass the full Congress within months, if not weeks.

Still, it’s unclear whether the cannabis banking measure has enough bipartisan support.

Some progressives haven’t wanted to pass cannabis banking reform unless social equity provisions are included.

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Blumenauer said he is willing to work with those lawmakers as long as it doesn’t get in the way of solving the cannabis banking problem.

But he added that those focused on social equity should also be concerned about the increasing amount of violence against small marijuana operators, including people of color.